This was no ordinary day at the pool. This was summer school. Summer school, in this area, consists mainly of swimming every day, along with some other activities, all designed to keep up their skills that they worked on so hard during the school year, so they didn’t lose it for the twelve weeks they were off during the summer.
The short yellow buses were lined up as far as I could see. There were all kinds of wheelchairs for all kinds of kids. There were kids as young as three up through high school. The sight of all of these wheelchairs, made me tear up. Never have I seen so many disabled children, in one spot. I couldn’t help but think that life wasn’t fair for these kids and how they were all on the wrong side of outcomes. Those tiny percentages loomed large here.
The summer school program had many volunteers; college students majoring in special education, make up the bulk of them. There were some older aides as well, that help with the children.
I couldn’t help but think that children with severe disabilities and water don’t mix. After all, it’s difficult to manage these children normally, let alone when they are slippery and wet and can’t help you. But I didn’t have to help today. It was parent visitation day at the pool and I could just relax. Instead, Dear Son had three aides that would get him in the water and take care of him.
Dear Son never like swimming and it may be my fault. I don’t like water however my husband and I made the mistake of taking Dear Son into the hot tub on one of our weekend trips and he loved it. It wasn’t a bad thing, it was just that once he had a taste of that nice hot water, he wanted nothing to do with the cold swimming pool. His dislike for a cold swimming pool continued for many years. Every summer, they take the kids to the pool for summer school and every summer he’d shiver in the pool, his chest sunken in, his bony ribs making waves in his lily white skin and his baggy swimming trunks trying to find some meat on his body to hang onto. That was, until he met Mr. H.
Mr. H and Dear Son went together like peanut butter and jelly. He’d take Dear Son over to the deep area of the pool and let him float, while holding onto him. Dear Son would smile ear to ear, his face beaming in the sun, as if the sun were shining down on him, like a spotlight in the pool. Mr. H had a special spot in the pool, just for him and Dear Son. When he didn’t take Dear Son over to it right away, Dear Son would look at him, look at the spot and then give him a great big smile. It was great to see him so happy.
Soon the time was up in the pool. Mr. H and the two other male aides, lifted Dear Son out of the pool and into the wheelchair, taking him inside to get him dressed for the bus ride home.
I couldn’t help but think, as I saw the hundreds of children wheel out to their little buses, what it must have been like some forty years ago, for children like these. Many were placed into homes, away from the families they were born into, because they were severely disabled and it was too hard to care for them. As the little yellow school buses drove away, I couldn’t help but think of those children who were born in the wrong place and at the wrong time. I wonder if they ever had their day in the sun, with someone like Mr. H, who let them float the afternoon away or if they drowned their sorrows looking out the window at the other children playing in the swimming hole, if they even had a window to look out. I wonder too, if anyone visits them at the home, or if they just forgot about them after they admitted them, and went on about their normal lives. Sometimes, you don’t need to swim with the sharks to be eaten up by them.